How to Find & Use Safe Dental Floss
When you go in for your 6-month teeth cleaning, your hygienist is always reminding you about the importance of flossing your teeth, right? And it is very important, but as with any product you use, you need to make sure the type of floss you are using isn’t made of some questionable ingredients that have been linked to adverse health risks. So how do you know you are using safe dental floss?
Well, floss in general is usually made of either Teflon, nylon, silk or polyester. If it is a waxed floss, then it might be coated with either petroleum, beeswax or coconut oil.
Some of the ingredients that popular floss manufacturers use are toxic to our health and some our toxic to our environment. A recent study, “Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women,” published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology found that women who used Oral-B Glide dental floss had higher levels of perfuoralkyl substances (PFAS) in their bloodstream than those who didn’t use this brand of floss. This floss and some of their competitors also contain fluorine, another marker of PFAS chemicals.
In addition, according to Health.com, “Last year, a Harvard University study found that women with higher levels of PFAS tend to have slower metabolisms and gain back more weight after dieting than those with lower levels. This wasn’t true of men, however, and researchers suspect that the chemicals’ effects on female sex hormones may be responsible.”
Here are some of the ingredients you should watch out for:
You might have Teflon pans in your home, but did you know that some dental floss also have Teflon in it? While you most likely not swallow your floss, the Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) in Teflon has been linked to thyroid disease and other health risks, even if just a little bit gets into your system. Teflon has also been linked to hormone imbalance, cancer, autoimmune disease, neurotoxicity and Alzheimer’s disease. Is it really worth the risk?
You can be exposed to petroleum two ways with dental floss. First, nylon floss is made from petroleum, and second the wax on most dental floss is made from petroleum. While there isn’t a lot of research on the possible risks of using floss containing petroleum, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that about 22% of all personal care products that contain petroleum have almost 24 toxins including 1,4-dioxane which causes cancer in animals. Petroleum products are also known to cause candidiasis of the mouth in infants, and can affect hormone balance in all of us.
Nylon floss, besides being made from petroleum, is bad for the environment. It does not decompose easily and ends up as more trash on our planet. Plus the chemicals in it can contaminate our air and water. However if your choice is either a nylon-based floss or a Teflon-based floss, most dental experts recommend the nylon-based products.
Now all this doesn’t mean stopping flossing completely. If you only have access to or can only afford the standard floss products than the risks are small enough that it is actually better for your oral health to floss with it then to not floss at all.
Does It Matter If It Is Waxed or Unwaxed?
When it comes to the health of your mouth, it really doesn’t matter whether the floss you use is of the waxed or unwaxed variety. People do tend to have personal preferences though. Some people find waxed floss easier to use and they like the choice of different flavorings. Some waxed floss users also report that they experience less bleeding than when they use unwaxed floss.
Others, however, feel that unwaxed floss is better at getting between the teeth and tend to prefer their floss unflavored. Unwaxed floss also tends to be less expensive.
What Are Safe Dental Floss Options?
Luckily, there are plenty of safe dental floss options to choose from. Instead of nylon floss, look for floss made of natural silk which is biodegradable. If you are going for a nylon floss, look for one that is coated in something other than petroleum. Beeswax is a popular alternative.
Check out Askthedentist.com for some recommendations on safe dental floss. Among their list is Radius Natural Silk Floss and Boka Mint Floss.
The most important thing to remember though is to floss every day. Experts recommend doing it at night right after brushing your teeth before bed. That way there are no food particles or bacteria in mouth overnight to wreak havoc. Technique matters as well. Rub the floss gently in between your teeth to get to the gum line. Do not use harsh “saw” like motions that can cause bleeding and irritation.